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Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing my habits with the goal of improving my life. While doing this work, it became clear to me that I have a hard time sticking with things. For instance, this is my third blog in 10 years and I’ve taken year-long breaks from writing. I am good at beginning new workout routines then quickly falling out of love with them. And, my best friend Ana dubbed me a “flexitarian” for how often my dietary restrictions used to bend when we were roommates. Tofu today, wings tomorrow!
Since making this discovery, I have attempted to push myself to show up with greater levels of consistency. One way I did this was by participating in Mattie James’ Consistency Challenge. For 14 or 30 days, you post to your Instagram account at least once a day. I’ve participated in a few of these events now, and they take work. What I’ve learned is that those who win are not just showing up online consistently by chance. They are reaping the benefits of establishing good habits. To learn more about habits, I decided to read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Here are a few of the ways this incredible read changed my life.
Developing Better Habits
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a hard worker but I’ve struggled with discipline. Anything that required me to do something painful or anxiety-inducing may not get done. I realized, too, that I have completed many tasks but in a very disjointed, non-systematic way. Consequently, I always assumed that this was the reason I’ve struggled to reach certain goals. But while reading the book, I realized that my goals needed stronger habits to support them.
You not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.James Clear
When taking inventory of my habits, I discovered some that would help me get to where I want to be. Case in point, I want Lennox to love reading, so I model reading by keeping my nose in a book for 30 minutes a day. We also take weekly library trips, and read at least 3 books to him each night. So far, these habits have been effective. But the majority of my habits were developed without an end goal in mind. I was doing them just to do them, and that’s wasted energy. After reading the book, I have established more thoughtful practices that give my goals legs to stand on.
Becoming The Type of Person I Want To Be
I have always felt some shame around my lack of discipline. And I never understood why I wouldn’t just complete necessary tasks. However, Atomic Habits showed me that some habits are driven by how we see ourselves at our core. James Clear calls these Identity-Based Habits.
The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.James Clear
My lack of follow-through was not the result of laziness. It was the result of needing to change how I saw myself. I started to tell myself the following:
- I am a blogger so I post to my blog twice a week
- My physical health matters to me so I exercise Monday through Friday
- I am a reader so I spend 30 minutes reading everyday
When I started identifying as the person I want to be, my habits started to feel natural and less like work. For the first time in many years, I am able to live in flow and do the things that have to be done each day.
Priming My Environment
One of the biggest reasons we struggle with habits is because we haven’t optimized our lives to make good habits easy to complete. I realized that I was struggling to get my workouts done because I didn’t have a dedicated space or time to do them. I also didn’t have any exercise clothing that fit well. So when it was time to work out, I had a list of excuses. James Clear advises us to prime our environment for making good habits.
We should ask ourselves ‘How can we design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right?’ Redesign your life so the actions that matter the most are also the actions that are the easiest to do.James Clear
For me, priming my environment looks like being sure I have books available to easily read to Lennox. It also looks like ensuring my workout clothes are washed and ready, and my watch is charged. I have also done the work of making bad habits harder to do and given myself some accountability partners. If I don’t complete my workout, the 3 women who see my Apple Watch data will ask me about it. Just making these small changes has resulted in me sticking to my habits more often.
I have read many self-help books throughout the years, but I can truly say that Atomic Habits was a life changer. Clear breaks down the science and psychology of habit formation in a way that is easy to understand. And he provides incredibly actionable steps. If you are feeling stuck and looking for ways to create positive change in your life, you should consider reading this book. It is one that I will continue to revisit often.
The quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.James Clear
If this post has been helpful or if you have anything to share regarding the book, please leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading,